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Home In Imperial Beach Chosen For Green Home Tour

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Posted: Friday, October 18, 2019 2:36 pm

Councilman Mark West believes you have to start somewhere and eat an elephant one bite at a time. That’s how it was for him when he decided he was going to make his home energy efficient. He started with one project and 13 years later his home was chosen to be part of the San Diego Green Homes Tour which will take place this Saturday, Oct. 19.

“The annual tour is put on by the San Diego Green Building Council, a local non-profit that advocates, supports and educates about green building, sustainability and healthy living,” explained Bryon Stafford, board of director of San Diego Green Council who was on this pre-tour of West’s home.

West and his wife Megan bought their home in Imperial Beach in 2006; it was built in the 1930s. His first project was to make the lawn in the front of the house an Ocean Friendly Garden. He rented a tractor - he hadn’t driven one since his high school days - and tore up his yard. He then connected with a group from the Surfrider Foundation who helped him plan his garden. What he ended up with is a garden with California and Baja native plants that require little water.

“I knew all along I was going to do something like this,” he said.

The front of his house has a variety of lush vegetation that is attractive and saves water in the process. Some of the plants include an acacia tree, sage, and California lilac which has beautiful blue flowers. He also created a dividing wall with a grapevine, a plant that does not require much water.

His next step was to install what is now a total of 10 solar panels on his roof. Those panels catch the sun during the day and provide energy, while his Tesla battery powerwall, installed on the side of the house, kicks in during the evening when the sun goes down. The battery powerwall is still an expensive choice, even though consumers end up saving money in the long run. Stafford said the industry is working on creating batteries that are less expensive.

“If you start making those commitments to an energy efficient home and making a step in the right direction, then you realize how easy it is,” said West. He explained that a lot of rebates are available for those like him who chose to have less of an impact on the environment.

West has also changed most of his appliances from gas to electric and he and his wife drive electric cars, a Volt and a Leaf, and he proudly explains that there are no oil changes and other maintenance to those cars - just put air in the tires, charge them and go. “We were the first 50 to get the new electric car of this generation, the Leaf, that has a 220 mile range,” he said.

When West got rid of his hot water heater, he purchased a tankless water heater which heats water as it goes through it. To top that, he has another piece of equipment on the roof which preheats the water before it goes to the tankless water heater reducing energy use even more. West’s utility bills are low. His water bill runs about $35 and his electric bill is a maximum of $80 when he uses the air conditioner unit.

West designed his own grey water system for the washing machine and coordinates the watering of the plants with a wash cycle. He then runs a hose to the garden to water the plants. West used instructions from the Los Angeles Metro Water District on how to create his own grey water system.

West also collects rain water and he has two rain barrels connected through a pipe on the roof. He said that each one is 50 gallons and after a rain they fill up.

“For a 1,000 square feet of roof, for every inch of rain you get 650 gallons of water,” explained Stafford.

The Wests have a vegetable garden and milkweed plant to attract butterflies which is watered with rain or grey water.

West happened to mention his home was energy efficient to someone from the Green Building Council and before he knew it his home was evaluated and received a score of 10 out of 10 and was invited to participate in the tour. “I didn’t expect that, to tell you the truth,” he said.

“I made a commitment to make sure I’m a person who leads by example,” he said of his way of living. West is able to track his energy use and its sources on his phone. For example the day before this visit, only 17 percent of his energy came from SDG&E.

“We try to feature a range of homes like a house like this that incorporates energy saving features. We have two homes made of straw bales [instead of timber walls.] They are the most efficient homes in the world,” explained Stafford. Each home on the tour gets about 50 visitors. On Saturday eight homes south of SR 56 will be featured, while on Sunday, it will be six homes that are located north of SR 56. Home locations include Bankers Hill, Jamul, La Jolla and Point Loma.

West is excited about showing off his energy efficient improvements and helping others make that choice. “I look forward to Saturday. I can’t wait to talk to people,” he said.

How did West’s wife react to all the green improvements? “She pushed the ‘I believe’ button and she knew I had done the research,” he said.

The Green Homes Tour will take place Saturday Oct.19 from 10 a.m to 4 p.m. For more information and tickets log on www.sdgreenhomestour.org

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